*contributed collaborative post
When school closures were whispered about this time last year, it seemed like we were on the brink of apocalypse. Parents, like everyone else, fluctuated between thinking ‘surely not’ and ‘we’re all doomed’. And, when the homeschooling bomb was finally dropped back in late March, it came as a huge blow, especially amidst predictions of ‘a doomed generation.’
A year later, we’re two months into the second homeschooling stint and, in large part, many parents are starting to realise that it might not be the terrible transition we first thought. Undeniably, struggles with juggling work and home life continue for many but, for the parents who have time to dedicate to the cause, home lessons are revealing some unexpected benefits. So much so, in fact, that a quarter of parents are now thinking about taking up the homeschooling mantle even once things get ‘back to normal’.
In many cases, this shift is a result of the unexpected additions that home school lessons can bring. Namely, families are finding ways to incorporate activities that schools could never manage, specifically on the exercise front.
For obvious logistical purposes, options such as cycling have never really made their way onto school curriculums. There’s just no practical or safe way to provide suitable equipment/attention to an entire classroom! Yet, when we’re taking care of our own kids, cycling can be a fantastic way to get out in nature and provide some all-important exercise lessons. Even better, this option offers a far more inclusive full-body workout than almost every other sport that kids get to try in school.
As such, peddling your way to family bike rides right now could be a fantastic way to enhance the full benefits of home-based sport’s lessons. With cycling levels in general skyrocketing by as much as 300% since lockdowns began, you certainly wouldn’t be alone. Of course, unlike many of those new cyclists, you have some fragile little lives to look after. And, we’ve got some pointers to ensure that your cycling lessons don’t end in tears.
Get the right equipment
A lack of decent equipment is a large part of the reason that cycling would never take off in schools. The fact is that a decent, well-kept bike isn’t cheap, but it is well worth the cost. What’s more, seeking professional bicycle maintenance every six months on average guarantees that your investment will last.
Fundamentally, you want a sturdy bike that offers hybrid riding capabilities for country and road rides. For safety purposes, you must avoid the mentality of buying a bike that your kids can ‘grow into’. Rather, you need a bike that fits from day one, meaning that taking measurements is fundamental. And, of course, well-fitting helmets and reliable knee pads are also a must no matter where you intend to ride.
In all honesty, though you can now buy all of this stuff online, bikes are something best bought in-person so that you can see upfront the quality of the build and materials. Luckily, cycling shops are counted among essential retailers, meaning that you shouldn’t have any difficulty getting what you need here. To keep your trip risk-free, go along with some records of your kid’s sizings, and speak with a professional in-store to ensure you get precisely what you’re looking for.
Always teach safety
No matter where you intend to take your child riding, teaching a few all-important safety lessons is non-negotiable. Bicycle accidents leave thousands of people seeking medical help and even the assistance of a personal injury attorney each year, and that’s something you need to keep in mind. Of course, you can’t stop your kids from falling off their bikes, but you can pass on as much knowledge as possible.
On a simple level, making sure that your youngsters know to always wear their helmet and other safety equipment is a fantastic starting point here, but you’ll also want to teach key safety focuses, including –
- Road safety
- Cycle lanes
- Hand signals
These lessons are crucial even if you intend to cycle largely off-road, as you simply never know where you could end up when you head off for a route you’ve never taken before.
Focus on key skills
Once children can cycle independently, it’s fundamental that you get to work teaching them a few key cycling skills. These will enhance the safety focuses touched on above, but they will also help your children to become better and more competent cyclers in general.
- Steering and turning
- Riding with a straight back
- Finding a centre of gravity
- Keeping brake levels covered
- Gradual stopping
- Safe braking practices
- Foot positions
The more competent that your children become with these focuses, the more chance they have at enjoying comfortable rides that enhance a love for this activity rather than leaving them stiff, sore, and unwilling to head out again.
Remember to warm-up
Speaking of making sure your kids don’t end up stiff and sore, it’s fundamental that you take the time to warm up with them before you all head out. This is something that we wouldn’t think twice about if we were about to take our youngsters for a run, or even kick a football around the garden. Yet, it’s amazing how many of us forget this consideration altogether where cycling is concerned.
In reality, though, riding a bike works nearly every muscle in our body, as well as getting our blood well and truly pumping. With that in mind, failure to work out in advance could leave your kids with injuries or aches that stop them from exercising for a fair few days.
Avoid that by always warming those muscles. Luckily, you needn’t do star jumps or running on the spot to achieve this (though you can if you want to make things fun!) Rather, experts state that 15-20 minutes of gentle riding on flat surfaces to start with is an excellent, hassle-free way to ease into a more exertive ride later on.
Think about your timings
Thinking about the best times to ride has always been a cycling fundamental but, with more people than ever getting on their bikes right now, it’s crucial that you plan your timings carefully to keep the whole family safe.
As a general rule, avoiding standard parks and outdoor exercise hotspots right now is advisable at any time of day. That said, going riding first thing in the morning could mean that you’re able to avoid the crowds for the most part, even in these increasingly popular outdoor areas.
Think, too, about timings with regards to meals. As a general rule, experts advise against riding until at least two hours after a meal. With that in mind, cycling either before breakfast or at around two in the afternoon is the best way to avoid stitch and all other manner of issues that could see you turning around before the lesson gets going.
A final word
Cycling is an amazing exercise to implement into your homeschool, but it does pose certain risks if you don’t approach it in the right way. After all, like any other exercise equipment, bikes can be dangerous. And that’s before you even consider the risk of environmental factors such as cars.
But, if you take the time to factor these considerations from the moment you bring those bikes home, then you can bet that this is the ideal time of life in which to harness a cycling habit with staying power.